In an interaction with ET, its global President Ryan McInerney speaks about how Visa is not only adhering to the data localisation diktat of the Reserve Bank of India, but is also building products for global markets in Bengaluru. To support its ambitious plans for India, Visa has scaled up its staff strength to more than 1,300 now from less than 50 in 2015. Besides its own corporate plans, McInerney is also excited at the fintech boom in India and is keeping all options on acquisitions, investments and partnerships open for disruptive players in this space. Edited excerpts:
Demonetisation gave a push to digitisation but now cash has crept back into the economy. How challenging is the fight against cash turning out to be?
Battling cash is a huge challenge and we must fight it through multiple modes: first, expand acceptance infrastructure: there is still a huge retail market where you cannot pay digitally. Second, improve user experience of paying digitally and ‘contactless’ could bring that. Third is to educate consumers. We had deployed our entire global marketing team for India to create a series of campaigns focussed on customer education post demonetisation.
What is the stand of Visa on data localisation?
We are extremely committed to the new regulations that the RBI has put in place. We already have a team here in Bengaluru comprising some of the best Indian engineers. I think there is a combination of multiple things that are happening in India meant to create a safer and better environment for online commerce and we are fully committed to be a part of it.
There seemed to be initial resistance to the move from the RBI from global companies. Why so?
We have always been supportive of the moves from the RBI. We have engaged with them in every step. Since our commitment to India is long term, measured in decades, we want to work in a way the RBI feels is the right way to work.
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said he was against data localisation in countries with weak rule of law. Is there any safety issue for storing data in India?
We have built an architecture which we feel is very safe for our new payments processing platform in India and we feel confident about how it is going to work.
You have created a large workforce in India. Are you creating new products here for global markets?
Yes. One of the challenges of two-factor authentication is it brings friction in the payments experience. Our product teams and engineers have worked with some of our clients to come up with a new one-click checkout product for ecommerce payments where the consumer needs to tap a button to pay in safe, secure and RBI-compliant means. We will first roll it out to our Indian issuers and merchants here and then export it around the world. I think going forward, this trend is going to catch up even more.
How big is your staff strength here?
In India we have got around 1,300 people across locations — Mumbai, Bengaluru and others — which in 2015 was around 40 to 50 people and this is further growing. Here we have engineers, product leaders, client leaders who are all helping us create world-class products and expand business as well.
You have been operating in India for many years…do you see in recent times the government is more inclined towards NPCI?
Unlike China, where we are not even allowed to play in their domestic market, India offers a level playing field. Whenever we have been involved with the government here, we have been engaged in discussions around solving problems. There have been some ups and downs but at the macro level we have been aligned with the vision of the government.
At the micro level, issues happen sometimes like the Jan Dhan case when RuPay cards were mandated to participate in the financial inclusion game. We would have loved to participate there as well but that did not happen. Wherever we have been allowed, we have participated. We think competition is good for everyone and encourages innovation.
You have invested in Billdesk; are you looking at more such opportunities here?
If there are more opportunities to invest in companies in India that we think can be helpful for the ecosystem in terms of driving acceptance, digitisation of cash, innovation, we are very excited about those chances. We are actively engaged with the most innovative fintech startups in the country and one of the engagements is by making investments and acquisitions and we are actively considering those opportunities in India. After our Billdesk investments, further investments, acquisitions, partnering all are on the table.
Are you ready with NCMC cards for India?
NCMC was one of the fastest builds that we had done and that was also a Make in India build. Today, we are ready with the product and will roll it out through our issuers as well. I think one of the major use cases for digital payments is transit and it is an important use case for driving contactless. In the UK now, well over 50% of the Visa transactions are contactless.